The workbench build begins
I’ve been following along watching a few people build their benches as part of The Woodwhisperer Guild Build and decided to take a stab at doing my own detailed SketchUp plan for my bench. I was pleasantly surprised to find the process of building a bench in SketchUp highlighted a lot of errors in my design. I’m quite glad that I avoided finding this during the building process…but these were a rather painful lesson in using SketchUp. C’est la vie…it’s all good, I know more about SketchUp than I did before…just enough to make me dangerous without making
I revised my plan a few times, and still have more work to do to make it properly reflect what I’m going to build, but the basics are there and I’m narrowing down the scope of changes quite a bit.
I decided that I will indeed go ahead with three vises: the Klausz style tail vise and a leg vise on one side, with a face vise on the other side. I don’t plan to put the bench against a wall, so I hope this allows for multiple workers, or multiple areas for dedicated work during a build.
I had been to the lumber mill a couple of months ago, and again about a month ago to get the lumber I thought I would need for this bench. I’m pretty confident, having done the SketchUp model, that I’ve got what I need.
The bench top will be made of soft maple. The top is going to be a split top, similar to Bob Lang’s, with removable tool trays down the middle. These will likely be under 6″ in width and I’ll either use 3 or 4 of them, still undecided. The front slab (where the tail vise and leg vise will reside) is going to be laminated from 2″x4″ boards. I expect the final size to be roughly 13 3/8″x3 1/2″. I was hoping for 4″ thick, but I couldn’t quite find wide enough boards to make it happen. The other deciding factor was the back slab, which is a solid 11 1/4″x3 7/8″ chunk of soft maple. This has an unfortunate bow to it that means I’ll have to take off something like 1/4″ to make it disappear. More on this once I get it lifted up off the floor and really see what I’m dealing with. The tool trays will also be soft maple, but I’m starting with some 4/4 stock which should end up just over 3/4″ when I’m done milling.
The three vises are going to be made primarily from some walnut that milled up to a hair under 2″. I’ll also be making a sliding deadman out of the walnut. One aspect of the design that I’m still mulling over is whether or not I’ll make the endcaps for the front slab out of maple or use some walnut to give it a little flair.
The legs are going to come out of some massive beefy 6″x6″ pine timbers. When I picked these up, they looked awful. They were completely black on the outside, covered in snow (yes, outside in January…what was I thinking?) and crazy heavy. I was assured by the mill that these were bone dry, had been on site for several years and would dry up in no time once I got them into the shop. They were right! There are a few knots and checks, but I’m not all that worried about them, I’ve got plenty of wood to work with and can afford to mill things down a fair bit.
From the 4/4 maple, I’ll also be making a shelf across the bottom between the stretchers.
The biggest challenge I’ve had so far has been figuring out the order in which to do things. I believe I’ve figured out a process, based on the SketchUp modeling, that allows me to build without doing a whole lot of measuring. Most of the measurements will be relative; once I’ve completed one component it will dictate the size of the next component and so on.
I still have a number of design points to finalize:
- square, round or both types of dog holes
- shape of the leg vise
- shape of the deadman
- end cap assemblies for the front slab
- leg attachment (stopped tenons, through tenons, Roubo style dovetail tenons)
In any event…I know that my first step involves milling the front slab boards and building the tail vise in order to get the final dimensions for the front slab.